Archive for the ‘China and North Korea’ category

North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station

July 24, 2018

BY: 38 NORTH JULY 23, 2018 SATELLITE IMAGERY, WMD

Source Link: North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station

{Was calling out Kim Jong Un an attempt by DJT to move the topic of the day off Russia? I think not. Watch for similarities with Iran in the near future. Watch for more forceful engagement with Russia as well. – LS}

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

In an important first step towards fulfilling a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit, new commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012) indicates that the North has begun dismantling key facilities. Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building—where space launch vehicles are assembled before moving them to the launch pad—and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea.

Dismantlement at the Launch Pad

Commercial satellite imagery of the launch pad from July 20 shows that the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure has been moved to the middle of the pad, exposing the underground rail transfer point—one of the few times it has been seen in this location. The roof and supporting structure have been partially removed and numerous vehicles are present—including a large construction crane. An image from two days later shows the continued presence of the crane and vehicles. Considerable progress has been made in dismantling the rail-mounted processing/transfer structure. One corner has been completely dismantled and the parts can be seen lying on the ground. In both images the two fuel/oxidizer bunkers, main processing building and gantry tower remain untouched.

Figure 1. By July 20, dismantlement had begun of the rail-mounted transfer structure on the Sohae launch pad.

Image © 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contactthirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 2. Closeup of the partially dismantled structure.

Image © 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contactthirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 3. By July 22, significant progress had been made in dismantling the rail-mounted transfer structure on the Sohae launch pad.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 4. Closeup of the partially dismantled structure.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Work at the Vertical Engine Test Stand

Imagery of the vertical engine test stand from July 20 shows the presence of a crane and a number of vehicles. The rail-mounted environmental shelter—which hadn’t been moved since December 2017—has been razed and removed, the older fuel/oxidizer bunkers are in the process of being razed, and portions of the test stand’s upper steel framework have been dismantled and its paneling removed.

Two days later fewer vehicles are present and the test stand superstructure has been completely dismantled, leaving only the base, which is also in the process of being removed. No additional progress is noted on the demolition of the older fuel/oxidizer bunkers. In both images, the two newer fuel/oxidizer bunkers and vehicle garage remain untouched, as does the concrete foundation of the test stand. Given the state of activity, work is likely to have begun sometime within the past two weeks.

Figure 5. Environmental shelter removed and other dismantlement activities underway at the engine test stand by July 20.

Image © 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contactthirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 6. Closeup of the engine test stand activities underway.

Image © 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contactthirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 7. Test stand superstructure completed dismantled by July 22.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Figure 8. Closeup of the engine test stand activities underway.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Trump may mull naval blockade, no-fly zone against N. Korea: expert

May 24, 2018

Published : May 23, 2017 Korea Herald

Source Link: Trump may mull naval blockade, no-fly zone against N. Korea: expert

{Naval blockade? If this happens, I’m going to need plenty of popcorn. – LS}

The Donald Trump administration may push for naval blockades or the imposition of a “no-fly” zone against North Korea should it succeed in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, an expert here said Tuesday.

Trump would view it as a red line for the nuclear-armed communist nation, according to Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

In case of the North’s successful development of ICBMs, “Taking military actions against Pyongyang will be the most appealing option on the table from Trump’s perspective,” he said in a paper released to media ahead of a security forum to be co-organized by Korea National Defense University and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (foundation).

The forum will be held in Seoul on Wednesday with the theme of “The New US Administration and Its Alliance Relations: Change and Continuity.” Shin plans to give a presentation at the conference.

Shin pointed out that Trump will be restrained from launching a direct military strike against the North due to concerns about massive retaliatory attacks.

“He can still create military tensions through other options without carrying out a direct military attack on North Korea,” the professor said. “That is, military operations, naval blockades, and the imposition of a no-fly zone could also escalate tensions in Northeast Asia.”

For these reasons, he added, attention needs to be paid to the US decision to keep deploying its aircraft carrier Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the East Sea after May.

Another key question is how China and Russia will respond to such US actions if taken.

Both Beijing and Moscow may seek to avoid a direct military confrontation with the US and step up efforts to nudge Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table on its nuclear program, Shin said.

Or they may try to check such unilateral military actions by the US, creating military tensions among the regional powers and exacerbating the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

If regional players fail to manage pending risk factors, he added, Northeast Asia is likely to slide into the vortex of armed confrontations. (Yonhap)

North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

April 25, 2018

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 South China Morning Post

Source Link: North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

{Remember when the NORKS destroyed a reactor and pledged an end to their nuclear program? Remember seeing the Clinton’s and Madeleine Albright sipping champagne with Kim’s father with big smiles of accomplishment on their faces? Disgusting, wasn’t it. Well, not this time Rocket Boy. There’s a new sheriff in town. I suggest you don’t screw with him. He’s no Clinton. – LS}

North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed, putting China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure, two separate groups of Chinese scientists studying the issue have confirmed.

The collapse after five nuclear blasts may be why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared on Friday that he would freeze the hermit state’s nuclear and missile tests and shut down the site, one researcher said.

The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have all been carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea’s northwest.

One group of researchers found that the most recent blast tore open a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed upon itself. A second group concluded that the breakdown created a “chimney” that could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.

A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found.

The mountain’s collapse, and the prospect of radioactive exposure in the aftermath, confirms a series of exclusive reports by the South China Morning Post on China’s fears that Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test had caused a fallout leak.

Radioactive dust could escape through holes or cracks in the damaged mountain, the scientists said.

“It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.

The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.

North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage.

The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.

But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday.

As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.

Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations.

Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Another research team led by Liu Junqing at the Jilin Earthquake Agency with the China Earthquake Administration in Changchun reached similar conclusions to the Wen team.

The “rock collapse … was for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” Liu’s team wrote in a paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters.

The breakdown not only took off part of the mountain’s summit but also created a “chimney” that could allow fallout to rise from the blast centre into the air, they said.

Zhao Lianfeng, a researcher with the Institute of Earth Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the two studies supported a consensus among scientists that “the site was wrecked” beyond repair.

“Their findings are in agreement to our observations,” he said.

“Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions,” Zhao said. “The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside.”

Speculation grew that North Korea’s site was in trouble when Lee Doh-sik, the top North Korean geologist, visited Zhao’s institute about two weeks after the test and met privately with senior Chinese government geologists.

Although the purpose of Lee’s visit was not disclosed, two days later Pyongyang announced it would no longer conduct land-based nuclear tests.

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based scholar who follows North Korea’s nuclear programme, said it was highly likely that Pyongyang had received a stark warning from Beijing.

“The test was not only destabilising the site but increasing the risk of eruption of the Changbai Mountain,” a large, active volcano at China-Korean border, said Hu, who asked that his university affiliation not be disclosed for this article because of the topic’s sensitivity.

The mountain’s collapse has likely dealt a huge blow to North Korea’s nuclear programme, Hu said.

Hit by crippling international economic sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, the country might lack sufficient resources to soon resume testing at a new site, he said.

“But there are other sites suitable for testing,” Hu said. “They must be closely monitored.”

Guo Qiuju, a Peking University professor who has belonged to a panel that has advised the Chinese government on emergency responses to radioactive hazards, said that if fallout escaped through cracks, it could be carried by wind over the Chinese border.

“So far we have not detected an abnormal increase of radioactivity levels,” Guo said. “But we will continue to monitor the surrounding region with a large [amount] of highly sensitive equipment and analyse the data in state-of-the-art laboratories.”

Zhao Guodong, a government nuclear waste confinement specialist at the University of South China, said that the North Korean government should allow scientists from China and other countries to enter the test site and evaluate the damage.

“We can put a thick layer of soil on top of the collapsed site, fill the cracks with special cement, or remove the pollutants with chemical solution,” he said.

“There are many methods to deal with the problem. All they need [to do] is ask.”

Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

April 19, 2018


A U.S. Army soldier stands guard in front of the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 18, 2018.

April 19, 2018 5:31 AM Reuters via VOA News

Source Link: Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

{Even though the outcome is unknown at this point, you have to admit this is historic. Of course, the MSM will never give Trump any credit. Besides, imagine the impact on Iran if the North Koreans disarmed and made peace with the USA and South Korea. – LS}

North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.

Moon said big-picture agreements about normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through planned summits between North and South, and between the North and the United States, in a bid to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon told reporters. “They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”


Workers plant flowers in the shape of the Korean Peninsula on the lawn to wish for a successful inter-Korean summit at Seoul Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, April 13, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in April 27 at the border.

Armistice change

North Korea has defended its weapons programs, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. hostility. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

South Korea announced Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month.

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearizes.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a luncheon in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2018. Moon said agreements on big-picture issues between the Koreas should not be difficult to reach.

‘A lot of constraints’

But he also said the summit had “a lot of constraints,” in that the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-United States summit, and could not reach an agreement that transcends international sanctions.

“So first, the South-North Korean summit must make a good beginning, and the dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit,” Moon said.

U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he formed a “good relationship,” U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.

North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party’s central committee Friday, state media KCNA said Thursday. The meeting was convened to discuss and decide “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current “important historic period,” KCNA said.

 

 

Secret Document Reveals China Covertly Offering Missiles, Increased Aid to North Korea

January 2, 2018

Secret Document Reveals China Covertly Offering Missiles, Increased Aid to North Korea, Washington Free Beacon, January 2, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping / Getty Images

CIA spokesmen had no immediate comment on the document that could not be independently verified.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return emails seeking comment.

Former State Department intelligence official John Tkacik, a China affairs specialist, said the document appears genuine and if confirmed as authentic would represent “a bombshell” disclosure.

Tkacik told the Free Beacon the document, may be “evidence that China has no real commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, and indeed sees North Korean nuclear arms as an additional strategic threat to the United States, one that China can claim no influence over.”

“Reading between the lines, it is clear that China views North Korea as giving it leverage with the U.S., so long as the U.S. believes that China is doing all it can do,” Tkacik said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said if the document is authentic, “it reveals China’s policy to be completely cynical and utterly detached from its publicly stated position.”

“The White House would have to react accordingly,” he added.

********************************

China’s Communist Party adopted a secret plan in September to bolster the North Korean government with increased aid and military support, including new missiles, if Pyongyang halts further nuclear tests, according to an internal party document.

The document, labeled “top secret” and dated Sept. 15—12 days after North Korea’s latest underground nuclear blast—outlines China’s plan for dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. It states China will allow North Korea to keep its current arsenal of nuclear weapons, contrary to Beijing’s public stance that it seeks a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Chinese leaders also agreed to offer new assurances that the North Korean government will not be allowed to collapse, and that Beijing plans to apply sanctions “symbolically” to avoid punishing the regime of leader Kim Jong Un under a recent U.N. resolution requiring a halt to oil and gas shipments into North Korea.

A copy of the four-page Chinese-language document was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from a person who once had ties to the Chinese intelligence and security communities. An English translation can be found here.

CIA spokesmen had no immediate comment on the document that could not be independently verified.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return emails seeking comment.

Disclosure of the document comes amid reports China is continuing to send oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions, prompting criticism from President Trump. Trump tweeted last week that China was caught “red handed” allowing oil shipments to North Korea.

“There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korean problem if this continues to happen,” the president stated on Dec. 28.

Release of the classified internal document is unusual since China’s communist system imposes strict secrecy on all party policies. Exposure of the secret Central Committee directive could indicate high-level opposition within the party to current supreme leader Xi Jinping, who has consolidated more power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

China: Pressure on North Korea won’t work

China’s leaders, according to the document, concluded that international pressure will not force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, estimated to be at least 20 warheads.

As a result, the Central Committee of the party directed its International Liaison Department, the organ in charge of communicating with foreign political parties, to inform Pyongyang of China’s continued backing.

The head of the Liaison Department, Song Tao, visited Pyongyang Nov. 17 and met with senior North Korean officials. North Korean state media did not provide details of the talks, other than to say issues of mutual concern were discussed.

The directive appears written in response to the United Nations Security Council resolution passed after the Sept. 3 North Korean nuclear test. Included among the resolution’s new sanctions are restrictions on oil and gas transfers, including a ban on transferring oil between ships in open ocean waters.

On the U.N. requirement to shut down oil and gas transfers from China to North Korea, the party document said after North Korean businesses in China will be closed under the terms of the latest U.N. resolution, “our country will not for the moment restrict Korea from entrusting qualified Chinese agencies from trade with Korea or conducting related trade activities via third countries (region).”

A directive ordered the Liaison Department to offer a promised increase in aid for “daily life and infrastructure building” and a one-time increase in funds for North Korea of 15 percent for 2018. Chinese aid will be then be increased annually from 2019 through 2023 by “no less than 10 percent over the previous year.”

The Chinese also promised the North Koreans that in response to calls to suspend all banking business with North Korea that the financial ban will “only apply to state-owned banks controlled by the central government and some regional banks.”

On military support, the document reveals that China is offering North Korean “defensive military construction” and “high level military science and technology.”

The weaponry will include “more advanced mid- and short-range ballistic missiles, cluster munitions, etc.,” the document said.

“Your department should at the same time seriously warn the Korean authority not to overdo things on the nuclear issue,” the document says.

“Currently, there is no issue for our country to forcefully ask Korea to immediately and completely give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, we ask Korea to maintain restraint and after some years when the conditions are ripe, to apply gradual reforms and eventually meet the requirement of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

Beijing to warn Kim of ‘punitive measures’

The document then directs the Liaison Department to warn that if North Korea insists on acting rashly, further punitive measures will be imposed on senior North Korean leaders and their family members.

The directive lists “requirements” for the Liaison Department to pursue, including informing the North Koreans of China’s “determination to protect the Korean government on behalf of the Central Committee of CPC.”

Liaison officials also were tasked with informing the North Koreans of promises of support and aid in exchange for Pyongyang making “substantial compromises on its nuclear issues.”

“According to the current deployment of world forces and the geographic position of the Korean Peninsula, to prevent the collapse of the Korean government and the possible direct military confrontation with western hostile forces led by the United States on the Korean Peninsula caused by these issues, our country, Russia, and other countries will have to resort to all the effective measures such as diplomatic mediation and military diversion to firmly ensure the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and to prevent ‘chaos and war,’ which is also the common position held firmly by our country, Russia, and others,” the report says.

The document states that if the United States “rushes to war” against North Korea, the conflict would have a huge impact on the political and economic state of the region and the world.

“At such a time, the security of Japan and (South) Korea can be hardly taken care of, especially the security of Seoul, the (South) Korean capital,” the document says.

“Also, our country, Russia, and others will absolutely not look on the chaotic situation on the Korean Peninsula without taking any action.”

The document states that China believes that “theoretically” western powers will not use military force to overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime to solve the nuclear issue.

“However, international provocations by Korea via repeatedly conducting nuclear tests has imposed huge international pressure on our country that is continuously accumulating and becoming unbearably heavy,” the document says.

‘Stern warning’ and ‘assurances’

The deal outlined in the document to be communicated to Pyongyang includes a “stern warning” combined with “related assurances to Korea at the same time.”

“That is, currently Korea will not have to immediately give up its nuclear weapons, that so long as Korea promises not to continue conducting new nuclear tests and immediately puts those promises into action, our country will immediately increase economic, trade, and military assistance to Korea, and will add or continue providing the following benefits,” the report states.

The first item then lists greatly increasing trade with North Korea to keep the government operating and to raise the living standard of North Koreans.

“As for products under international sanctions such as crude oil products (except for the related products clearly defined as related to nuclear tests), under the condition of fully ensuring domestic demand of Korea, we will only make a symbolic handling or punishment,” the Party document said.

Past document leaks have included party documents on decision making related to the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square published in the 2001 book The Tiananmen Paper.

A more recent disclosure in October was the release of an internal Communist Party document  authorizing the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian spy service, to dispatch 27 intelligence officers to the United States to “crush hostile forces.” That document was made public by exiled Chinese businessman-turned-dissident Guo Wengui.

Orville Schell, a China specialist who worked on the Tiananmen Papers, said he could not authenticate the document but said it has “an air of veracity.”

“The language in Chinese is spot on party-speak, and the logic of the argument would appear to be congruent with the current line and what is happening,” said Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York.

Columbia University Professor Andrew Nathan also could not authenticate the document but said it looks genuine. “The typeface, layout, header, seal, vocabulary, and diction are all those of an official inner party document,” said Nathan who also worked on the Tiananmen papers.

Nathan said the document appeared to be a directive for International Liaison Department director Song Tao’s mission to Pyongyang two months later, and Beijing’s attempt to press North Korea to halt nuclear tests using a combination of incentives and warnings.

The Chinese language version uses some terms that reveal China’s contempt for North Korea, such as the term “ruling authorities” for the Kim regime, something Nathan said is an “unfriendly” tone.

Former State Department intelligence official John Tkacik, a China affairs specialist, said the document appears genuine and if confirmed as authentic would represent “a bombshell” disclosure.

Tkacik told the Free Beacon the document, may be “evidence that China has no real commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, and indeed sees North Korean nuclear arms as an additional strategic threat to the United States, one that China can claim no influence over.”

“Reading between the lines, it is clear that China views North Korea as giving it leverage with the U.S., so long as the U.S. believes that China is doing all it can do,” Tkacik said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said if the document is authentic, “it reveals China’s policy to be completely cynical and utterly detached from its publicly stated position.”

“The White House would have to react accordingly,” he added.

Trump criticizes past N. Korea policies

Trump last week tweeted a video showing then-President Bill Clinton praising the 1994 Agreed Framework that Clinton said would freeze and ultimately dismantle the North Korean nuclear program.

The video also included a clip of Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from 1999 urging action then to stop the North Korean nuclear program in its early stages.

Trump told the New York Times after the tweet he was disappointed China is secretly shipping oil to North Korea. “Oil is going into North Korea. So I’m not happy about it,” he said, adding that he has been “soft on China” for its unfair trade practices and technology theft.

“China has a tremendous power over North Korea. Far greater than anyone knows,” Trump said Dec. 28, adding that “China can solve the North Korea problem, and they’re helping us, and they’re even helping us a lot, but they’re not helping us enough.”

“If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do,” the president added. “China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more … We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China, and it’s not good for Russia. It’s no good for anybody.”

The Trump administration has been signaling for months it is prepared to use military force against North Korea to rid the country of nuclear arms and missile delivery systems.

North Korea conducted several long-range missile tests in 2017 that U.S. officials have said indicate rapid progress toward building a missile capable of targeting the United States with a nuclear warhead.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Dec. 29 that he has drawn up military options for operations against North Korea.

“I don’t speculate, as you know, about future operations by our forces,” Mattis told reporters. “But with three U.N. Security Council resolutions in a row, unanimously adopted, each one has put significantly more pressure on the North Korean regime for its provocations, for its outlaw activities. I think you will see increased pressure. What form that pressure takes in terms of physical operations is something that will be determined by the Congress and government.”

Asked if the United States is closer to war with North Korea, Mattis said: “You know, I provide military options right now. This is a clearly a diplomatically led effort with a lot of international diplomatic support. It’s got a lot of economic buttressing, so it’s not like it’s just words. It’s real activities.”

China backs N. Korea as buffer zone

The party directive states that China regards North Korea as a strategic “buffer zone” needed to “fend off hostile western forces.” Ideologically, North Korea also is important to China in promoting its vision of “socialism with Chinese characteristics led by our Party” and identifying North Korea as “irreplaceable.”

According to the document, the Party regards the “continuity of the Korean government,” maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and one of its unwavering goals.

“This issue is about the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the fundamental interests of our Party, our country, and all Chinese people,” the document concludes, adding that the department should quickly coordinate with the Foreign and Commerce Ministries and other agencies to develop an operational plan to implement the policy “to ensure the sense of responsibility, to strictly maintain related confidentiality, and to seriously accomplish the heavy tasks entrusted by the Central Committee of CPC.”

The document bears the seal of the General Office of the Communist Party Central Committee, the office in charge of administrative affairs. Copies were sent to the administrative offices of the National People’s Congress, State Council, and Central Military Commission.

The internal document states that the new policy toward the North Korean nuclear issue is based on consultations among key power organs within the ruling party, including the Central Committee and State Council, along with what was termed “the guiding spirit” of meetings held by the National Security Commission, headed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“After research and assessment, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China decided to authorize your department to lead and organize the communication and coordination work with the Korean administration on its nuclear issues,” the document states.

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018

December 30, 2017

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018, Gatestone Institute, John Bolton, December 30, 2017

Yesterday’s 2017 review and forecast for 2018 focused on the most urgent challenges the Trump administration faces: the volatile Middle East, international terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Today, we examine the strategic threats posed by China and Russia and one of President Trump’s continuing priorities: preserving and enhancing American sovereignty.

Russia and China will be among the Trump administration’s key strategic challenges in the coming year. Photo: Wikipedia.

China has likely been Trump’s biggest personal disappointment in 2017, one where he thought that major improvements might be possible, especially in international trade. Despite significant investments of time and attention to President Xi Jinping, now empowered in ways unprecedented since Mao Tse Tung, very little has changed in Beijing’s foreign policy, bilaterally or globally. There is no evidence of improved trade relations, or any effort by China to curb its abuses, such as pirating intellectual property, government discrimination against foreign traders and investors, or biased judicial fora.

Even worse, Beijing’s belligerent steps to annex the South China Sea and threaten Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea continued unabated, or even accelerated in 2017. In all probability, therefore, 2018 will see tensions ratchet up in these critical regions, as America (and hopefully others) defend against thinly veiled Chinese military aggression. Japan in particular has reached its limits as China has increased its capabilities across the full military spectrum, including at sea, in space and cyberwarfare.

Taiwan is not far behind. Even South Korea’s Moon Jae In may be growing disenchanted with Beijing as it seeks to constrain Seoul’s strategic defense options. And make no mistake, what China is doing in its littoral periphery is closely watched in India, where the rise of Chinese economic and military power is increasingly worrying. The Trump administration should closely monitor all these flash points along China’s frontiers, any one of which could provoke a major military confrontation, if not next year, soon thereafter.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is where China has most disappointed the White House. Xi Jinping has played the United States just like his predecessors, promising increased pressure on Pyongyang but not delivering nearly enough. The most encouraging news came as 2017 ended, in the revelation that Chinese and American military officers have discussed possible scenarios involving regime collapse or military conflict in North Korea. While unclear how far these talks have progressed, the mere fact that China is engaging in them shows a new level of awareness of how explosive the situation is. So, 2018 will be critical not only regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat but also whether Sino-American relations improve or take a distinct turn for the worse.

On Russia, the president has not given up on Vladimir Putin, at least not yet, but that may well come in 2018. Putin is an old-school, hard-edged, national interest-centered Russian leader, defending the “rodina” (the motherland), not a discredited ideology. Confronted with U.S. strength, Putin knows when to pull back, and he is, when it suits him, even capable of making and keeping deals. But there is no point in romanticizing the Moscow-Washington dynamic. It must be based not on personal relationships but on realpolitik.

No better proof exists than Russia’s reaction to Trump’s recent decision to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, which is now a war zone entirely because of Russian aggression. To hear Moscow react to Trump’s weapons decision, however, one would think he was responsible for increased hostilities. President Obama should have acted at the first evidence of Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, and even Trump’s aid is a small step compared to President Bush’s 2008 proposal to move Kiev quickly toward NATO membership. Nonetheless, every independent state that emerged from the Soviet Union, NATO member or not, is obsessed with how America handles Ukraine. They should be, because the Kremlin’s calculus about their futures will almost certainly turn on whether Trump draws a line on Moscow’s adventurism in Ukraine.

Just as troubling as Russia’s menace in Eastern and Central Europe is its reemergence as a great power player in the Middle East. Just weeks ago, the Russian Duma ratified an agreement greatly expanding Russia’s naval station at Tartus, Syria. In 2015, Obama stood dumbfounded as Russia built a significant air base in nearby Latakia, thus cementing the intrusion of Russia’s military presence in the Middle East to an extent not seen since Anwar Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers and brought Egypt into the Western orbit in the 1970s.

This expansion constitutes a significant power projection for the Kremlin. Indeed, it seems clear that Russia’s support (even more than Iran’s) for Syria’s Assad regime has kept the dictatorship in power. Russia’s assertiveness in 2017 also empowered Tehran, even as the ISIS caliphate was destroyed, to create an arc of Shia military power from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, linking up with Hezbollah in Lebanon. This Russian-Iranian axis should rank alongside Iran’s nuclear-weapons program on America’s list of threats emanating from the Middle East.

Finally, the pure folly of both the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly crossing the United States on the Jerusalem embassy decision was a mistake of potentially devastating consequences for the United Nations. Combined with the International Criminal Court’s November decision to move toward investigating alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, there is now ample space for the White House to expand on the president’s focus on protecting American sovereignty.

Trump’s first insight into the rage for “global governance” among the high minded came on trade issues, and his concern for the World Trade Organization’s adjudication mechanism. These are substantial and legitimate, but the broader issues of “who governs” and the challenges to constitutional, representative government from international bodies and treaties that expressly seek to advance global governing institutions are real and growing. America has long been an obstacle to these efforts, due to our quaint attachment to our Constitution and the exceptionalist notion that we don’t need international treaties to “improve” it.

No recent president has made the sovereignty point as strongly as Trump, and the United Nations and International Criminal Court actions in 2017 now afford him a chance to make decisive political and financial responses in 2018. If 2017 was a tumultuous year internationally, 2018 could make it seem calm by comparison.

John R. Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs at the U.S. Department of State under President George W. Bush. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

This article first appeared in The Hill and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle

October 26, 2017

How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle, Washington ExaminerTom Rogan, October 25, 2017

OPINION

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.

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In a rare occurrence, three U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSGs) are now in the Indian Ocean or western Pacific Ocean. While the Navy claims these deployments were pre-planned, its heavy publicity of this news suggests it was told to make a show of its presence.

As such, I suspect the Trump administration is attempting to raise Chinese and North Korean concerns that the U.S. is preparing to use force against the latter.

In specific terms, Trump wants China to put additional economic pressure on North Korea. While President Xi of China has made some limited efforts in this regard, he could do much more to restrict the financial intermediaries that deliver Kim Jong Un his foreign capital. And whether coincidental or not, these three arrivals align well with the news that diplomats are struggling to make headway. The timing and contrast between diplomats and carriers allows the U.S. to present a binary choice between the carrot of diplomacy and the stick of military power.

Still, the pressure on China is also extended by basic geography. After all, unless it takes a big detour, the Nimitz CSG will navigate past China’s artificial islands in the East and South China Seas in order to get to the Korean Peninsula. We know this because the Navy’s press release makes clear the Nimitz is sailing from the Middle East and asserts that the CSG “will be ready to support operations throughout the [Western Pacific area of operations].” Seeing as North Korea is the primary threat contingency in that area, we should assume the Nimitz will head towards the peninsula.

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

Yet Trump himself is also crucial here.

That’s because President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.